How to Become a Certified Nurse Anesthetist: Career Roadmap

Feb 27, 2019

Learn how to become a certified nurse anesthetist. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career as a certified nurse anesthetist.

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  • 0:02 Be a Certified Nurse…
  • 1:05 Career Requirements
  • 1:32 Steps to Certified…

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Be a Certified Nurse Anesthetist

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced nursing specialty. A nurse anesthetist is responsible for all phases of administering and managing anesthesia in hospitals, delivery rooms, clinics, dental offices, and for outpatient procedures. They are trained and qualified to administer a variety of anesthetics, providing pain management for every type of surgery. In addition to relieving pain during and after medical procedures, CRNAs ensure that the patient's vital functions remain in the normal range during the administration of anesthesia and provide follow-up care and monitoring related to the administration of anesthesia.

Schedules for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are usually full-time and may require overnight hours for 24-hour care centers. This job carries a high degree of responsibility and can be demanding and stressful. Although, helping patients undergo procedures safely by minimizing or eliminating pain can be rewarding.

Career Requirements

Certified registered nurse anesthetists demonstrate strong interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills. They're critical thinkers, resourceful, and pay close attention to detail. Compassion is also a common trait among nurses. In January 2016, reported that Certified registered nurse anesthetists earned a median salary of $136,937.

Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field Nursing with a nurse anesthesia concentration
Experience 1 to 3 years of experience
Licensure and Certification All states require registered nurse (RN) license; certification usually required for APRN license in many states
Key Skills Interpersonal, communication, critical thinking and leadership skills, ability to be resourceful, compassionate and pay attention to detail
Median Salary (2016)* $136,937

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mayo School of Health Sciences, National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, * (January 2016), Online Job Postings (July to August 2015)

Steps to Certified Nurse Anesthetist

There are several formal steps to employment as a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

Step 1: Obtain an Undergraduate Degree in Nursing

Certification to become a nurse anesthetist requires that the candidate be a registered nurse and have a bachelor's degree in nursing. The first two years of nursing school consists of fulfilling prerequisite requirements in biology, chemistry, and physiology, and may be completed at a community college. The second two years must be completed in an accredited nursing program. Courses generally cover nursing practices for all phases of life as well as family and community health, nursing practice, science, and ethics. The student nurse must also complete several clinical rotations under supervision in the major health disciplines as a graduation requirement.

Success Tip

Get good grades. Nurse anesthetist programs require applicants to have maintained a 3.0 or better grade point average (GPA) in their nursing degree program. Of critical importance are minimum required GPAs in core nursing courses, chemistry, and biology.

Step 2: Obtain State License as Registered Nurse (RN)

State licensing for registered nurses may vary slightly; however all states requires licenusre for RNs. Generally, a new graduate of a state-approved or accredited nursing college may apply for a nursing license by examination. The graduate must pass the examination required by the state nursing board or similar state regulatory agency in order to be licensed. A registered nurse who has an unrestricted RN license in one state can generally apply for license by endorsement in another state.

Step 3: Obtain Experience

Nurse anesthetist degree programs generally require applicants to have a year or more experience as a registered nurse in a critical care setting. This is generally best obtained by working in a hospital or surgical intensive care unit.

Step 4: Earn a Nurse Anesthesia Degree From an Accredited Program

A master's degree program in nurse anesthesia generally takes about 26 to 30 months of full-time attendance to complete. Student learn about all aspects of anesthesia equipment and management, both in the classroom and in a clinical setting. The first part of the program generally involves coursework in pain management, physiology, pharmacology, and anesthesia for medical specialties. The second part involves the student obtaining supervised clinical experience in a variety of anesthesia situations and covering the full range of medical specialties.

Step 5: Apply for Certification

Upon graduation from an accredited nurse anesthesia degree program, the candidate is eligible to take the exam for certification as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). The exam and certification is provided by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). In addition to taking and passing the examination, the candidate must also have a valid RN license with no history of being revoked or restricted, no physical or mental health issues, no misuse of drugs or alcohol, and no history of misconduct or unethical conduct.

Success Tip

Maintain Certification. CRNAs must recertify every two years. In order to recertify, they must complete 40 hours of approved continuing education training, and have maintained their RN license. They must also continue to meet the substance abuse, misconduct, ethics, and mental health requirements in order to maintain their certification.

Step 6: Consider a Doctorate Degree

CRNAs looking to further advance in the nursing field may consider earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. A DNP is the highest level of education awarded to nurses and is an alternative to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, which requires conducting research. With a DNP, advanced practice registered nurses are qualified for administration roles that may involve improving the quality of healthcare systems.

Becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) requires rigorous preparation through several years of education and training. CRNAs have completed a bachelor's degree program in nursing, earned a state RN license, and have a minimum of professional experience in providing critical care. CRNAs also have a master's degree in nurse anesthesia and professional certification.

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